Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Farewell to the, I want to write horrific but perhaps will tone that drama down a bit - how about...less than stellar, fading year 2008.

I wish you all a fantastic new year of health, happiness, kindness and above all else - love.

A year to 'follow your bliss'.

I have never been one to make new year's resolutions but this year I think I'll give it a go. As Reya often writes "onward and upwards".

Sunday, December 28, 2008


On the last day of school, before our Christmas vacation, the children sat and wrote about the upcoming holidays. It is so interesting to watch their writing process. What they do when they do not know how to spell a word? Do they ask someone? Stretch it out? Look around the room or find books that they remember contain the exact word they are looking for? Give up?

What part does motivation play? How do they communicate when their message is important and personal?

The sampling of stories below bear testament to the writing process as it develops in young children. Some look conventional while others epitomize the fledgling learner and the struggle to map letters to sounds. They are all beautiful. They are all progressing and growing.

I decorate my Christmas tree. 
Notice his long spider like arm reaching for the ornament? Make it work kid!

 She is learning to remember to add spaces between her words but I'msureyoucanstillreadit.

I think you can read this on your own, especially if you are an elementary school teacher or have young children. Great bunch of presents under the tree.

I love this. Take a look at the big chairs and how long she had to make their legs in order to reach the floor (and the heels).

This boy told me he colored all the boys blue and all the girls pink. He didn't learn that from me!

We had the best time playing dreidel. Gimel, Gimel, Gimel!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ho Ho Shh!

I am all about the magic of Christmas. 

"A million reasons to Believe" according to Macy*s. 

I am right there staring wide-eyed with optimism while Santa and the elves swirl magical Christmas enchantment around an eager populace.  I am that guy singing Christmas carols, spreading optimistic good will towards my fellow man and bouncing through each day with a smile on my face.

Belief!  Belief in possibilities!  That's me.

So, in 1989 when I read in the newspaper that Macy*s was looking for 'a few good elves' to work in SANTALAND at the "World's Largest Department Store" in NYC - the setting for that classic Christmas tear-jerker Miracle on 34th Street - I thought "oh yeah.  Sign me up!"

I scheduled an interview and met with a very pleasant woman at the 34th street offices.  I bounded in, full of enthusiasm and smiles.  I explained why I wanted to be an elf with an earnest childlike innocence and she fell for me.  At the end of the interview she said my spirit was perfect for the qualities they look for in their Santas and offered me that job.  

"Wow!"  says I  "I came in to be an elf and leave as Santa!"  It's like going out for a supporting role and ending up with the lead. Yippee!!

She calmed me down here to tell me that ALL ROLES are equal. No one is more important than anyone else here at SANTALAND.  I thought, "That's right.  All those kids line up to meet an elf."  But whatever, I was going to be Santa Claus at Macy*s.  

Due to a prior commitment I was unable to attend the training over the Thanksgiving holiday. I showed up for my first day rather nervous.  The more experienced, older Santas took me under their wing and explained the process; move the line along, pose for a picture with the kids and send in the next one.  No worries.  Just don't spend too long with anyone child because the lines are so long.

I was told that there are five Santa houses with one Santa waiting in each to keep things moving smoothly.  All one big family operating like a well-oiled machine.  Fantastic!

They have quite a production team in place.  I was escorted to the costume department where I was assigned my own Santa suit. An amazingly intricate and detailed piece of finery that was truly awe inspiring.  I met my personal hair and makeup person (loved her). The Santa wig and beard are set every evening and they showed me how to put them on, along with the eyebrows. By the time I was finished only a bit of my own face peered through.  Oh, and don't forget the glasses.

I was a hit; at first.  There was buzz about this young 'kid' (I was 25) who was the skinniest Santa in the history of SANTALAND (At 5'10" I weighed about 145lbs).  

On the first day I was lead to my house and sat down on Santa's throne.  Surrounded by toys, elves and Christmas music I felt excited.  But, it was hot under the lights wearing all that padding under my heavy costume with hair everywhere.  My house elf kept bringing me water to sip through a straw but I just sat there sweating like crazy. 

I was uncomfortable!

I decided to make the most of it though and thoroughly enjoyed chatting with the small children and happy adults. I guess I enjoyed it a little too much because I was told I was taking too long with each group and should remember "In and out" as fast as possible. Smile, click, see you on Christmas Eve and "Next".  

But who can stop me when I'm on?  

The other issue was that I was a very loud "Ho Ho Ho'er".  I got into the hearty belly laugh so much that I was repeatedly told to keep it down.  It seems that children sitting on Santa's lap in the houses next door (separated only by a thin wall) could hear another Santa. That didn't go over well as it spoiled the magic.  But I couldn't help myself.  

And I evidently didn't push for the pics as much as I should have.

It was lonely as a Santa.  Never out of costume, God forbid if I dropped character for even a moment while in the costume. I had to eat lunch alone in the back hallway next to the lockers. I was hot, losing weight, too loud, too talkative and couldn't wait for this gig to end (which it did, on Christmas Eve with me refusing to stay late.)  

I got a lovely t-shirt for my involvement (see above) and a stash of extra cash that I saved to travel Europe for two months the following May/June.  

Macy*s didn't invite me back the following year (I would have turned them down anyway - so there.) I only have three photos of this time.  Two of me standing in the back hallway in full costume which I can't find.  And one with my friend James, who was an elf, sitting on my lap. He has it framed and has promised to lend it to me so I can add it to this post.  We'll see.

"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!" 

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Sammy's Angels.

My magical niece Samantha continues to amaze me. Last night she handed me a piece of paper on which she had written the names of her angels.

4 angels who watch over her.

Of course, I wanted to know how she knew their names. Sometimes her answers to these metaphysical questions are very vague while at other times they are so matter of fact "duh" that I feel silly for even having asked. But for this question she simply said "They told me".

According to her, the angels Kyle, Simon, Lennon and Joshua are with her during the night and if she pretends she is asleep she can catch a glimpse of them. They only tell her their names - no other conversation occurs.

I asked her if everyone has their own angels. Her reply, "Yes". However, according to her, your angels rotate and move on to help others. So the four angels who watch over her today may or may not be the same four next week. The angels are there for many reasons including to "protect me from the bad angels" (fallen angels?).

I asked her how I could find out the names of my angels and she said I could ask. As I lay on the futon last night I did just that. I opened up my mind to this question and let the answers come uncensored. Several interesting names came to me but when I awoke this morning only one name stuck out; Tony!

Tony does not seem to be an angelic name to me. I told Sammy this morning that I asked my angels to tell me their names but could only remember one name. I expressed doubt about an angel named Tony.

Gary: I don't think there is an angel named Tony. Don't you think that is a weird name for an angel.

Samantha: No, that's not strange.

Gary: Oh, okay.

What does one say after that?

She is so matter of fact about all of this. It seems as natural to her as a blue sky and green grass.

The extraordinary aspect of this is that her family are not church going folk. Good and bad angels? How would she know about this unless she knew about this, you know?

Give it a try tonight. Ask your angels to reveal themselves to you by name and let me know what names come to you. Utterly astonishing.

Update: My sister, Jennifer,  recently asked Samantha to describe one of her many angels and Sammy told about the angel Raphael.  She said he was a teenager with long hair and was holding something like a sword or an ax. So, Jennifer Googled 'angel Raphael' and discovered that Raphael is the archangel of healing.  Given the fact that Sammy is a self professed healer (she recently healed her kindergarten teacher and has great confidence in her ability) the coincidence was rather amazing.  That coupled with the fact that he is described as "a young man carrying a staff" is cause for goosebumps.

One of the images I found when I Googled 'the archangel of healing' was the picture on the right of Raphael guiding children safely across a bridge.  This is one of my favorite images and I have a copy of it hanging in the bedroom.  


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